Our blog friend, Andrew Budek-Schmeisser wrote in to suggest a blog post about re-reading Here’s what he wrote:.
May I suggest that a blog post might deal with re-reading books? In my straitened and dread circumstance, I am finding grace in re-visiting the works that helped define the paradigm by which I now live; not so much for the comfort of the familiar, but for the understanding of that which yet gives me hope and purpose. They help set a bulwark against the storm which would overwhelm me, and drown my soul; I regret passing on the new, but in lashing my heart to the existing mast, I may still ride out the gale, at least until I find a final clarity.
Since I am the most avid re-reader in our group I asked to address the topic. Thanks, Andrew.
I started rereading when I first became a bibliophile. My friend, Diane, and I would plan a weekend synchronized re-read. If we had enough Kleenex, we would choose Just David. Or if it were to be gothic and spooky, Secret Garden. In the middle of the read, we might grab the nearest princess phone and talk it all over again together. I had a copy of Fifty Famous Fairy Stories I must have re-read more than a dozen times. Who knew it would play such an important part in my first career.
But there are many reasons for re-reading. Let me just outline a few:
Books that Define our Lives— It goes without saying that many of have re-read the Bible, our love letter from God. It’s like Andrew suggested, books are the touchstones of our lives. I can think of so many books that defined different stages of my life. Those are worth re-reading just to use as a yardstick.
Books that Shaped our Thoughts— I have several shelves of these and I revisit them every so often, like a refresher course. C. S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Madeleine L’Engle (Walking on Water), George MacDonald. Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s Gifts from the Sea. We change as we grow, so it makes sense to re-read them in each new phase of life. We mine entirely new insights. Our agent staff meetings usually end with a book discussion. The book we are reading now, Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert, is one I know I’ll re-read (and re-listen to) many times.
Old Friends— My mother once told me the best thing about getting old was that all her favorite books were new again. She spent many a day re-reading Gene Stratton Porter, Janette Oke, and Grace Livingstone Hill. I probably learned my re-reading habit from her. Again, I go to Andrew’s words, “the comfort of the familiar.”
Key Reference Books— I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve read Elements of Style by Strunk and White, since I got my first copy in college. I used to say that I needed to read that book, William Zinsser’s On Writing Well, and Self-Editing for Fiction Writers every single year. And I did for many years. I think it’s time again. I also treasure shelves filled with reference books on historical clothing, sewing and design. These are well, well-worn. I’m betting each on of you have reference books you refer to all the time.
Favorite Authors— Just as television fans binge-watch old favorite series (my daughters practically have Golden Girls memorized), I can’t imagine not re-reading all of Jane Austen’s books, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. . . nothing more satisfying for a fall Saturday. Surely every avid reader can name books they have re-read.
Poetry—I have favorite poets, long out of vogue, like James Whitcomb Riley whose vernacular poems are like candy to me. I can’t imagine not being able to dip in again and again. And, of course the classics like Emily Dickinson, Gerard Manly Hopkins, William Blake, etc. These are meant to be enjoyed over and over, maybe even memorized.
Children’s Books— And I hope you’ve taken time to re-read the books you loved as a child. Nothing connects you to the entire arc of your life like savoring the books you first read years and years ago. I’ve said it so many times but children’s books are often among the finest books ever written. Think: The Chronicles of Narnia, Sarah Plain and Tall, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Water Babies, The Giving Tree. . . I could go on forever.
How about you? Do you re-read? Any books in particular? Why do you choose to reread rather than pick up a fresh book?